WASHINGTON, D.C. — The hot DC summer air laid still as the final whistle blew Wednesday, signaling the end to a 3-3 draw between D.C. United and Chicago Fire at Audi Field.
The stillness carried into the locker room. Despite having a 3-2 lead after trailing by two goals in the first half, United was unable to secure all three points.
“It is certainly a disappointed locker room,” coach Ben Olsen said. “Any time you put yourself in that scenario at home, you would like to think we have enough to see that game out and get all three, but it wasn’t that type of night. The night was a lot to process. I am still trying to deal with what that game had to offer.”
United started the game by overloading the right side of the field, which created space for defender Chris Odoi-Atsem on the left.
While Olsen slotted Ulises Segura in for suspended midfielder Paul Arriola, he also gave the young defender, Odoi-Atem, his first start in over a year.
Odoi-Atsem returned to the pitch after successfully battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma this offseason. He played his first competitive minutes with USL Championship affiliate Loudoun United last month and started last Wednesday in the friendly against La Liga side Real Betis.
” I am happy for Chris Odoi,” Olsen said. “I think he had a really good night. Ran out of steam there probably early in the second half, but he kept chugging along.”
With Odoi-Atsem man-marking forward CJ Sapong in the opening minutes, United pushed into the attacking third. In the seventh minute, Segura got an early chance from defender Leonardo Jara, but the close-range shot went wide of the goal.
Chicago pounced on the counter attack. The Fire put ten men into United’s half with goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm at the edge of the center circle. The pressure paid off in the 12th minute when referee Armando Villarreal awarded Chicago a free kick about 40 yards away from goal. Forward Nicolás Gaitán lofted the ball toward the six-yard box and Sapong headed in the opening goal, diving between Wayne Rooney and Junior Moreno.
Less than three minutes later, the Fire’s pressure overwhelmed United’s defense. Midfielder Djordje Mihailovic shot a ball with pace past goalkeeper Bill Hamid, deflecting off Moreno in the process.
“When you are down 2-0 against a team like that, it is not fun,” Olsen said. “You have to chase and chase and chase. You extend yourself more than you want.”
United pulled one back late in the half when Rooney took advantage of a restart. The captain broke away from Chicago’s defense and sent a ball to Segura to finish.
United had a chance to equalize during stoppage time of the first half. Midfielder Lucas Rodriguez’s first attempt inside the box was blocked by Kronholm, but his follow up found the back of the net. Unfortunately for United, Villarreal put his hand to his ear and signaled for VAR, which overturned the goal due to a hand infraction.
United found some footing and the equalizer in the second half. Jara fed the ball wide to Segura, who cut in and kissed the ball off the post and behind Kronholm for his second score of the night.
“When (Segura) is in that natural position, out wide right, he has performed really well for this club,” Olsen said.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 30, 2019
Chicago had several scoring opportunities Wednesday, but Hamid was impenetrable for most of the second half.
Offensively, Luciano Acosta electrified the stadium in the 81st minute as United took its first lead of the game. Jara curled in a cross that could hit perfectly only off the head of 5-foot-3 Acosta.
The Fire found a way to equalize during stoppage time almost by accident. Defender Bastian Schweinsteiger lifted a ball up into the air and midfielder Francisco Calvo jumped up with his back to the goal, connected with the ball and guided it into the back of the net in the 92nd minute.
“I think it shows you can’t switch off,” Rooney said. “We showed great character to get back from two goals down to take the lead. It needs to be there to the end.”
The goal forced United to settle for a point instead of three.
“Overall, it was probably a fair result. They were the better team the first half. I thought we were the better team, in terms of creating chances, in the second half,” Rooney said. “When you concede late you feel defeated.”
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 30, 2019